Massee Lane Gardens ~ Another Maid Marian Made Migration

I'm published! Just kidding. As a public relations professional, I've been "published" many, many times as sort of a ghost writer. It's not often that I get to pen my name to a "real" article. This is my first travel article. It can be found in the February issue of GEORGIA Magazine about Massee Lane Gardens, home of the American Camellia Society, located in Fort Valley, GA is one of those "real" articles. Not only did I write the article, I also took the photographs which are gracing the front cover of the magazine and are accompanying my article. Take a look.

Mother Nature's hidden jewel
Story and photos by Marian Douglas

Hidden among pecan trees and peach orchards between Fort Valley and Marshallville on Highway 49 is a 30-acre jewel called Massee Lane Gardens, home of the American Camellia Society. Massee Lane became the society's headquarters in 1968 when one of its founding members and local peach farmer, David C. Strother, donated 160 acres to the society for their headquarters. The gardens are waiting to be discovered by gardeners and artists alike. These gardens feature one of the finest camellia collections in the world and are nestled here in the Middle Georgia countryside.

The best time to visit Massee Lane is in February when there is a nip in the air and the gardens are laden with color of more than 1,000 varieties of camellias planted here. Nearly 10 acres, the formal camellia garden is the crown jewel of these gardens. Brick pathways lead you to up-close encounters with beautiful camellia blooms in the most brilliant hues of red, pink, white and everything in between. Even their names evoke a sense of opulence--Ville de Nantes, Elegans Supreme, Lady Clare and Jean's Unsurpassable.

Various species of camellias are in bloom from September to March with peak season lasting from late January through early March. Massee Lane Gardens hosts the Festival of Camellias each February with special programs, workshops and tours.

Strolling down a brick path near the back of the formal garden, you arrive at the Abendroth Japanese Garden. Enclosed by a bamboo fence, the Japanese garden is a fine example of Asian horticulture and the epitome of serenity. Inside the garden is an authentic tea house, which provides shelter for a tea ceremony. Get lost in the sound of cascading water as it rolls gently over boulders into a pond filled with bright flame-colored koi.

If you are up for adventure and don't mind getting off the brick path, then the Seedling Forest is for you. The approximately 2-acre forest is where camellia enthusiast Strother tested new varieties of camellias before putting them in the formal garden. "It has a wonderful secret garden feel to it," says Celeste Richard, Operations Manager. "There are some real hidden treasures waiting to be discovered here."

Nearby the Abendroth Japanese Garden and the Seedling Forest is a landscaped greenhouse where over 160 camellia varieties are sheltered from freezing conditions during the winter months. Outside the greenhouse is the rare "fossil" tree. The tree, a dawn redwood, a member of the sequoia family, was considered extinct before being rediscovered in the early 1930s. Trees were distributed to gardens around the country in an effort to save the species. This one was planted by Strother himself.

From the "fossil" tree, you can walk toward the 2.4-acre, man-made lake. Around the lake you can find a native azalea garden, which blooms in March; the environmental garden, which features plants native to the Southeastern United States; and the Garden for the Child, a discovery garden where children and adults can interact. Also close by is the daylily display garden, which becomes awash in color when the daylilies reach their peak mid-May to mid-June. This 2- to 3-acre garden contains more than 500 different daylily cultivars or varieties, most of them planted in large blocks.

There are other attractions besides camellias, daylilies and azaleas. Another hidden jewel found at the gardens is its galleries. The Stevens-Taylor Gallery and the gallery found in the Annabelle Lundy Fetterman Educational Museum boasts the world's largest collection of Edward Marshall Boehm porcelains on public display, featuring many rare pieces as well as works by other artists. Boehm was an American sculptor know for his porcelain figures of birds and other wildlife. Today, notable examples of his work are in 134 museums and institutions throughout the world, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and Buckingham Palace in London. The smaller Stevens-Taylor Gallery, Massee Lane's first gallery, houses some of Boehm's earliest work.

Stop and explore Mother Nature's hidden jewel in all its glory. Massee Lane is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and on Sunday from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. throughout the year. During the Festival of Camellias in February, the gardens are open every day. Admission is $5. Flint members who show their Co-op Connections Card receive $1 off admission. Children under 12 and American Camellia Society Members are free. For more information, please visit http://www.americancamellias.org/ or call 478-967-2358.

Did you know?
  • Tea plants are a variety of camellia.

  • There are 39 granite gristmill stones incorporated in the brick paths or placed as seats throughout the garden. Can you locate them all?

  • The American Camellia Society was founded in Macon in 1945.

  • A letter written by American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow thanking a person for bringing a basket of camellia blossoms by in the rain can be found at the ACS administration building's library.

  • Dave Strother planted more than 1,000 varieties of camellias and traveled as many as 25,000 miles a season looking for new ones.

Savannah ~ A Maid Marian Migration, Part Two

Shopping in Savannah. Don't you just love the alliteration? My favorite shopping spot for home decor items and ideas in Savannah is The Paris Market. I could spend a small fortune in here. I go to The Paris Market to be inspired. Here are just of few of the things that I coveted on my last trip there:

Another one of my favorite stores in Savannah is HandPicked. It is part of a small chain of jewelry stores that began in Columbia, SC several years ago. The vast majority of my sterling silver jewelry collection has come from this store. I picked up this ring last year at their Savannah location.

Another favorite is
@Home. Unfortunately, @Home is closing its doors after 10 years of business. I'm so going to miss their vintage finds. However, I hope that they will continue to sell their wares online.

Do you have any special shopping spots in Savannah that you want to share? As you can tell, I love a reason to shop.


Thrifty Thursday

Go. Now. To. Target. They are having their winter clearance. Select toys 75% off. Select home decor 30-75% off. Select shoes 30-75% off. Select items in every dept. are 30-75% off. I picked up a cute pair of raspberry colored flats for $6.24!!! Yes, I know. Another pair of shoes. I can't wait to wear them. They were too cute and too cheap to pass up. Don't you think? Any ideas on what I should wear them with?


Savannah ~ A Maid Marian Migration, Part One

Savannah. One of my favorite places on earth. I traveled to Savannah this week for a business meeting. I'm planning a conference that will take place there this March. As part of my duties, I am to recommend some local points of interest to the conference attendees. Savannah is one of the jewels of the South. She is a tantalizing city full of mystery, beauty and some of the best food in the world.

I'm a foodie so much of my travels are around food. Blame my mother, who worked as a personal chef in Manhattan, for making me a food snob. I'm the go-to girl for several friends when they need a recommendation for a great place to eat. That's how I came to be the one on the planning committee to come up with a list of restaurants for networking dinners. Savannah has hundreds of restaurants, several of which are outstanding. How do you choose which ones would be the best to showcase to visitors?

Paula Deen and her restaurant The Lady and Sons is synonymous with Savannah. It is one of the most popular, if not THE most popular restaurant (at least with tourists), in Savannah. I have dined there several times and have had to wait an eternity to get in every single time. Tonight, I was seated immediately without a wait. Amazing! That's the beauty of going to a destination during the off-peak season, during the week and not with a large group.

I typically get the buffet which is a wonderful smattering of Southern country staples such as fried chicken, butter beans, creamed potatoes and mac n' cheese. Tonight, I wasn't in the mood for a heavy meal so I opted for the tilapia with crab butter, roasted asparagus and mushrooms and jasmine rice. It is a Paula's Pick on the dinner menu. It was delicious...filling but not overly filling. A wonderful medley of flavors. Yum-e!

All meals are served with a garlic cheese biscuit and a hoecake. For those of you not familiar, hoecakes are like pancakes except that they are made from cornmeal. They are best served with syrup preferably cane syrup. My grandmother Florrie used to make them. The closest I have found in taste to Grandmama's hoecakes are the ones at The Lady and Sons. I got a hoecake to go. God bless you, Paula Deen!

For those in the mood for seafood, Uncle Bubba's Oyster House has become a recent favorite of mine. The restaurant is a sister restaurant of The Lady & Sons and is named after Paula Deen's brother. Uncle Bubba's has great marsh views to enjoy while dining. Try the grilled oysters as an appetizer. Yum-e! The hint of Parmesan cheese makes them out-of-this-world.

Life is short...eat cupcakes first. For those of you with a sweet tooth, head down to Back in the Day Bakery on Bull Street. This quaint, vintage-decorated bakery is run by Cheryl, a delightful woman who asks it if you "enjoyed your treat" after you have finished one of her delectable confection. I had a red velvet cupcake that was DIVINE. I happened upon Cheryl's bakery by reading Jennifer Hayslip's blog, Sweet Eye Candy Creations. What a great tip! I picked up a sample of cupcakes and cookies to go. I got a carrot cake cupcake, an old-fashioned cupcake with pink icing, a couple of lavender shortbread cookies and some Mexican hot chocolate cookies. Where do I begin? All of them were exquisite. You will have to sample them yourself. Words are not enough. I will be visiting this bakery again. And again. And again.

Here are some of my favorite restaurants in Savannah:
  • Garibaldi's Cafe ~ try their crispy flounder. It's the restaurant's specialty and a personal favorite.

  • The Crab Shack ~ though it is technically on Tybee Island, this is "where the elite eat in their bare feet."

  • Leopold's Ice Cream Shoppe ~ the place for ice cream in Savannah since 1919.

  • The Chart House ~ a chain restaurant but wonderful view of the river especially at sunset.

These are some of my recommendations. I always like to try out new restaurants on my travels and need a few suggestions for my return trip in March. Do you have any favorite haunts in Savannah? I would love to hear about them.

I have another post about my favorite shopping spots in Savannah. Stay tuned.

Thrifty Thursday

This just in...the Kristin Davis line of clothes and accessories found at Belk is being discontinued according to one of their sales associates. Everything is marked down 75% off. See the previous post for a peek at a pair of flats that I picked up.

52 Weeks Project ~ Week 2

This week's self-portrait is of me and my shoe fetish. I confess, I like shoes. Heels, flats, boots, sneakers...you name it. I'm so known for my shoes at work that one of my co-workers nicknamed me "Imelda", as in Imelda Marcos. Imelda, former First Lady of the Philippines, had a collection of over 3,000 pairs of shoes!!! Can you imagine??? I don't have that many shoes though Mr. MMM may disagree. The funny thing is that I am half-Filipino...maybe shoe fetishes are genetic. These flats are by Kristin Davis and I got them for 75% off. Score!


52 Weeks Project ~ Week 1

52 weeks. 1 self-portrait a week. Can I do it? Or will I forget? Here is the first. I'm stylin' my new handmade scarf from Mr. MMM's grandmother. I love the colors and the fact that it is handmade.

Help for Haiti

Image by: Frederic Dupoux / Getty Images from TodayShow.com

I donated $10 to the Red Cross via my cell and it took just a few seconds. You too can text “HAITI” to 90999 to donate $10 to American Red Cross relief for Haiti right now. Easy peasy! $10 is not a lot to ask for helping those in such dire need. The photo above shows a three-month-old who was rescued from the rubble. Your donation can help one person. You can change the world for one person. Please donate. Be the church. Change the world.


Thrifty Thursday

This week's Thrifty Thursday find was these baskets at Pier 1 Imports for $7.48 each. They are very comparable to the Sabrina Baskets at Pottery Barn Kids ($18-35), don't you think? The baskets don't have the patterned liners like the PBK ones but I think I can make some.

Also, note that Hobby Lobby has select home decor items for 66% off this week. I wonder what I will find...Happy shopping!


Thrifty Thursday

Welcome to Thrifty Thursday where I will show/tell you about my latest thrifty find. Today, I stumbled upon what was left of Target's Christmas decorations for 90% off. Though the pickings were slim, I got 12 glass ornaments in gold and silver for 25 cents! Yes, that's right. A quarter for 12 ornaments. Since they were so economical, I bought 4 sets of each color. So for two whole dollars I have 96 ornaments. I also picked up a pack of ornament hooks for six cents! Now that is what I called thrifty. And it was Thursday no less.


Just Dance

I bought my husband a Wii for Christmas because it is a gaming system I might would actually play with him. He's been begging me for months to play video games with him. I know...I married a man child, but aren't they all? I am not a fan of video games. Repeat, I'm not a fan of video games unless it is Pac-man, Galaga, Super Mario Brothers or some other retro 1980-something video game. I know I'm a loser but video games just don't interest me. That is until I bought the Just Dance video game with my Christmas loot. I thought it might be cool since I like to dance. Let me just say that it was the MOST FUN I have ever had playing a video game. My stepdaughter and I played it for nearly three and a half hours the first night!!! Seriously. I hardly exercise because I can't seem to find the time so I was sweating and out of breath after a few songs. However, it was so-o-o-o worth it. Who knew that a video game would make exercising fun? If you don't believe me, check out what The Pink Chick says about the game. She's a friend of two of my friends, Katie and Heather.

I'm so excited!!!

I'm so excited to see that my son, Asher was featured on Alicia McDonald Photography's blog post yesterday! I didn't see Alicia's post until this morning. What a way to start the day! Isn't my little man A-D-O-R-A-B-L-E?!?!?

Alicia has taken some amazing photos of Asher over the past year, not to mention some fabulous maternity photos. She is a very talented children's photographer and is super sweet to boot. I highly recommend her. Check Alicia's Web site out (http://www.aliciamcdonald.com/index2.php). Too ca-ute!!!


The bestest cookbook EVER!

The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl

I purchased The Pioneer Woman Cooks cookbook by Ree Drummond as a Christmas gift to myself for several reasons. One because I am so envious of her mad photography skills. Two, I can't pass up a good cookbook. Three, I needed a good dose of inspiration in those two areas of my life...art and food. Four, I believe she may be my twin if I had porcelain skin and auburny brown hair but then again maybe not.

Anyway, this is by far the BESTEST cookbook I have ever owned. Sorry, Giada. Sorry, Paula Deen. I am a visual learner by nature so the step-by-step photos fulfill my learning needs. And the commentary is priceless. I have even laughed aloud a few times. I mean come on. When was the last time a COOKBOOK made you laugh and out loud at that? This is also the only cookbook I have read EVERY single page. I read it at night before I go to bed. My hubby thinks I've lost it. That's okay...it helps me dream of him in a pair of chaps which is good, yes?

Thanks, P-Dub for writing and photographing the bestest cookbook I have EVER had the true pleasure of reading front to back and back to front. You rock!


2010 Word-of-the-year: MORE

A fresh start. A clean slate. Square one. Here we begin not only a new year but a whole new decade. Ooooh, the possibilities!

Recently, I came across in my blog reading the concept of a “word-of-the-year” on Christine Kane’s blog. There are so many of us that make new year’s resolutions that fail by Jan. 5. “I’m going to lose 10 pounds.” “I’m going to exercise more.” “I’m going to give up sweets.” Yeah, right! We’ve all been there before however, having a word-of-the-year is different.

Kane’s concept is to find a word that you will live up to for the year instead of setting yourself up to fail with another unimaginative resolution. Ideally, the word-of-the-year is an action word such as change, expand or create. Or it can be a noun like abundance, courage or freedom. The beauty of the word-of-the-year is that you own it, whatever word you choose. For me personally, I chose the word “more.”

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary:

more (adverb):
1 a: in addition b : moreover 2 : to a greater or higher degree —often used with an adjective or adverb to form the comparative

more (adjective):
1" greater 2: additional, further

This year I am going to in no particular order:

  • Love more
  • Give more
  • Volunteer more
  • Dance more
  • Blog more
  • Take more photos
  • Cook more home-cooked meals
  • Save more
  • Create more
  • Spend more time with my family
  • Work more efficiently
  • Exercise more
  • Eat more healthier options
  • Drink more water
  • Read more
  • Live more
  • Be more!

Here's to getting more out of your life in 2010!